University of Birmingham bosses have been responding to student/staff protests regarding the closure of the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity and to university support staff taking industrial action over pay cuts. Even by their normal standards the conduct of the management has been ludicrously heavy-handed and only solidifies their image of being out of control and out of touch.
Removing the student paper
On the first university open day on Sunday the 10th of June, the university prompted outrage by removing the student paper Redbrick from campus. Thousands of copies of the paper were binned by university staff because they carried a headline article reporting the news of large cuts to several departments which were being advertised to students on the open day. The departments being cut/facing closure are the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity, the School of Education and Nursing and Physiotherapy. Student open day ambassadors are reporting they have been instructed not to speak of any cuts while giving tours of the departments to prospective students, who will arrive next term to find large numbers of their lecturers being made redundant in their first weeks of university.
Support staff at the University of Birmingham earn as little £13,000 a year full time before tax. This year they were offered just 1.2% per year when inflation last year was over 5%, a large real term pay cut. After this the university really twisted the knife by deciding that 16 years’ worth of double bank holiday was an “admin error” and they are abolishing it; effectively cutting pay for support staff by hundreds of pounds a year. In response hundreds of Unison staff have gone on strike and about a hundred Unison members picketed the university on the open days of June 21st and 22nd. Every open day visitor walking onto campus was given a leaflet naming and shaming the university for its treatment of its workers. The university responded harassing picketers with security, pressuring staff to work on the strike days and sending out all staff e-mails against unison.
University calls police on students for leafletting
In response to the censorship of the student paper, the VPE along with other students handed out copies of the censored front page, along with a pamphlet supporting the strikers.
The university called the campus police to stop the leafleting claiming the material was “libellous” and asked them to arrest the VPE, who then fled into the student union building before more campus police turned up and detained him and radioed their superiors saying they “want to know if we can arrest him,” although the answer was presumably “no” as they then let him go and left.
Academics in Royal Holloway in Surrey and Universities in London were reporting this Friday that they had been e-mailed by Mike Whitby the Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Birmingham. His e-mail was asking them to withdraw their name from the “Save the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity” petition. It appears that the university desperately sensitive of its poor public relations is e-mailing every academic who signs the petition in a desperate attempt to put its spin on the closure of the department.